30 November 2010

In the Annals of the Unsurprising…

The 10 month long Pentagon study shows that the overwhelming majority of those serving in the military have no problem with repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
"We are convinced the U.S. military can make this change, even during this time of war," the Defense Department report concludes, noting that 70% of the tens of thousands of military personnel and family members surveyed predicted there would be "positive, mixed or no effect" from allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.
This won't stop Republicans from blocking a repeal though, because pandering to a small, but vocal, minority of bigots is how they play.

I Am So Glad I Dropped out of OFA

What Bender Says, Barry!
I had a post a while ago titled, "I Am Glad that I Pulled My Email(s) from the OFA Mailing List, and the latest bit of lame ass political activism has me even more certain in my decision:
A decade of irresponsible spending led to a projected $1.3 trillion deficit that President Obama inherited upon taking office — putting America on an unsustainable fiscal course.

From Day One, this administration’s top focus has been growing the economy and putting Americans back to work — and that will never change.

The economy is growing again, yet all across America families and businesses have been tightening their belts. The President knows their government must do the same.

Yesterday, he announced a proposal to freeze pay for non-military federal employees for two years — a plan that will lead to $60 billion in savings over 10 years. It’s one of many tough choices the President has made to cut costs in the upcoming budget to begin to put our nation’s fiscal house in order. And it follows directly from this administration’s dedication to stretching federal dollars and reining in the long-term deficit.

Now, if you listen to some talk radio hosts or a few of the talking heads on cable news, you’ll hear a very different assessment of our fiscal policies. These voices ignore the irresponsibility of the past while pinning the blame for “reckless spending” solely on this administration. It would make a good fairy tale if it weren’t so dangerously untrue.

But these voices — as loud as they are — are spreading bunk. Cutting costs and spending responsibly has been a cornerstone of this administration’s record. And we need your help to get the truth out there.

Will you take a few minutes and write a letter to the editor today to set the record straight?
Yep, you got that right, OFA, the DNC run successor to the Obama campaign is asking its members to write letters to the editor supporting cutting the wages of janitors, teachers, law enforcement, and regulators, so that the Republicans can ask for tax cuts for people like the Koch brothers, they Who Must Not Be Named, and the rest of the undeserving rich.

I am so glad that I live in Maryland, because in 2012, if my state is in play, then the Republican has already won the race, so I am under no compunction to vote for him ever again.

F%$# the Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve, in response to repeated instances of wrongdoing and fraud by banks against mortgage owners, has decided to issue a new regulation gutting the right of rescission for fraudulent activities, citing "compliance costs":
Hundreds of consumer, civil rights, legal services, community and labor groups and private and public interest attorneys representing homeowners, along with the coalition Americans for Financial Reform, urged the Federal Reserve Board to withdraw a proposed rule that would destroy a key legal tool to unwind illegal loans and avoid foreclosure.

"We are astonished that, with the nation facing its greatest foreclosure crisis since the Great Depression, the Board's proposal would eliminate the single most powerful legal tool that homeowners currently have to stop wrongful foreclosures, the federal right to rescind an illegal loan," said Margot Saunders, Counsel to the National Consumer Law Center.
Basically, what rescission says is that if the loan was fraudulent, then the contract is broken, the lender cannot foreclose, and all interest, penalties, and fees revert to the homeowner, though the lender is still due his principal………Eventually.

The Fed's proposed new rule says that you can get rescission only after the principal has been repaid in full, essentially gutting that right, it allows for much larger misstatements by the bank as to the estimated monthly payments and in the total amount of the loan.

Additionally, they are proposing changed the rule on reverse mortgages that forbade issuers to require the purchase of another product as a condition for that loan, so now, so long as it is at least 10 days from the issuance of the reverse mortgage, it will be hunky dory, which has the AARP seriously pissed off.

This is egregious enough that the New York Times inveighed against this change in regulation.

I'm mad enough to agree with Ron Paul, and suggest that we shutter the Federal Reserve completely, or at least transform it from a quasi-private entity into one that is more responsive to politics.

Actually, my preferred position is to leave it in charge of monetary policy and money supply, and strip all regulatory powers from it, since it has shown itself to be completely unwilling and unable to create or enforce balanced regulations on the banks.

Tweet of the Day




Link

29 November 2010

Bloody Typical

So, in the face of GOP gains, largely on the back of the weak tea offered by Barack Obama on healthcare, and jobs, and pretty much everything, Barack Obama has decided that more capitulation to Republicans is in order:
President Obama is often blamed for not reaching out to Republicans. In truth, as Monday morning's announcement that Obama wants to cut the pay of all federal employees illustrates, he has the opposite problem. Obama frequently proposes essentially Republican policies, which makes it impossible for him to use those ideas to buy Republican votes for bipartisan legislation.
(emphasis mine)

Note here that this already has John Boehner doing the victory dance, and suggesting that there should be a freeze on hiring new federal workers, which, unsurprisingly, would gut increased SEC enforcement, staffing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, etc.

I am beginning to think that this guy is a Republican Plant.

If not, I really want to play some high stakes poker with him.

The Big Picture on the Wikileaks Releases

People are talking about potential damage from the recent release by Wikileaks of thousands of State Department Cables, and I think that they are missing the big picture here.

For all the chest pounding about how this is damaging, the reports this far are either not news (What, you mean Berlusconi parties and spends lots of money?), or more embarrassing than damaging (What, you mean that the Arabs hate the Iranians, as they hated the Persians for the past 3000 years).

The real issue here is that this is a natural consequence of over-classification.

Basically, since everything gets classified, and in the interests of communications between organizations, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people get access, and they that most, if not all, of the data that passes in front of them is stuff that is either already public knowledge, or absolutely innocuous.

It makes people casual about restricted data, so they are more likely to mishandle it, or, as in the case with Wikileaks, they feel compelled to share it with 3rd parties because they feel that it should be public data.

The solution to this problem, and it will be one that the US state security apparatus will almost certainly eschew, is to classify less data, because tightening down on data more just makes the problem worse.

Shirley, You Can't Be Serious!

I am serious. And don’t call me "Shirley."

Leslie Nielsen dead at 84.

28 November 2010

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! (2 days late)

No bank failures this week, so the number of FDIC insured institutions remains at 149 (Full FDIC list here), and the number of closed credit unions remains at 15 (Full NCUA list here).


So, here is the graph pr0n with trendline (FDIC only):



I would note that are now at the point where the utility of the least squares trendline is diminishing, I don't see the total number of closed banks getting anywhere near the 174 predicted by the line, though I do think that the final number will be north of 150.

27 November 2010

I'm Beginning to Think That I am Too Reflexively Pessimistic On the Economy

Admittedly, it is only one week, but this week's jobless claims numbers are very good, 407,000 initial claims, the lowest in almost 2½ years, the 4 week moving average fell to 436,000, continuing claims fell by 142K to 4.18 million, and emergency claims fell by 262,000 to 4.66 million.

This is getting close to the level where we can actually start seeing some real recovery in the job market.

I still think that we will see a double dip as what remains of the stimulus runs out, but I am less confident of that than I was, for example, a few months agol.

Our Man in Kandahar

So, we have been holding high level talks with a high ranking representative of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, and they plied him with many inducements, including no small amount of cash, only he turned out to be a con man scamming American negotiators:
For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.
We are not just non winning in Afghanistan, we are actively, and aggressively, losing there.

Things like this are a sign of a failed policy being pursued by desperate people.

H/t Atrios.

26 November 2010

25 November 2010

The Insider Trading Arrests Have Begun

We now have the first arrest as a result of the Department of Justice's investigation of insider trading facilitated by "research firms":
The government made the first arrest in a broad investigation of alleged insider trading on Wall Street, charging an employee of a California research firm used by hedge funds.

Don Ching Trang Chu was arrested at his home in Somerset, N.J., and charged in federal court in New York with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud. He was released on a $1-million bond.

A complaint filed by prosecutors says Chu helped hedge funds get inside information on publicly traded companies by connecting the funds with employees of the firms. 
One interesting thing to note is that, like Tamil financier Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon, once again they have arrested someone who isn't a member of the Wall Street white boy's club.

The real question here is whether this will be pursued up the chain.

My guess is no, because both Obama and Eric "Place" Holder have sold their genitals to the finance industry have decided to look forward, and not backward.

In a related note, a judge has said that the wiretaps in the Galleon case are admissible, which implies that this will increasingly be used as a tool by prosecutors in financial corruption.

Posting From the Road

In preparation for a long Thanksgiving drive, I decided to set up my new phone, a Samsung Epic 4G, to tether to my laptop.

It turns out that it's disabled by Sprint, unless you want to pay an additional $30.00/month for the privilege.

Luckily, the phone is an Android™, and not, for example, an iPhone™, so:
  • I turned on USB debugging mode.
  • Downloaded an application to root the phone.
  • Unzipped the file.
  • Ran a batch file.
  • Downloaded Google's Android-Wifi-Tether to the phone, and installed it.
  • Set up the name and password.
  • Turned off USB debugging mode.
So, now I am posting this to you through my cell phone's WiFi connection on my laptop while on I-295.*

In any case, this reveals how a more open architecture than the Apple/iPhone can let one take full advantage of the capabilities of the phone that you actually paid for.

Sweet, though I still think that Android's Calendar is kind of weak.

In any case, I am posting this from my laptop in  moving car, and theoretically, we could have up to 4 devices attached.

My thoughts on the phone:
  • The display is positively stunning.
  • The touch screen, which does not require a stylus, is still not completely comfortable to me.
  • Having actual multi-tasking is useful, though one has to be careful to not allow something in the background that will kill the battery.
  • The keyboard is very nice.
  • The camera is nice.
  • Reception is much better than my Palm.
  • 4G coverage is kind of spotty, but it is still being built out by Sprint.
  • Posting to the blog from the phone is still a pain, which is one of the reasons that I am tethering the laptop to the phone.  The other reason is so that we could watch Youtubes and the Macy's Parade.
  • Having real GPS on the phone, as opposed to cell tower triangulation, is wonderful.
  • Wifi mode chews the battery something fierce.  If you don't have it plugged in when using it, you won't get much time.


*No, I m not driving, my wife is.  I may be crazy, but I am not stupid.

Happy Thanksgiving

A turkey singing, "I will survive."

24 November 2010

That's Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!!

Tom Delay was convicted of one count of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to launder money.

Basically, he used the Republican national committee to funnel illegal corporate money to state races for the the Texas legislature.

While the charges typically carry a sentence of 5 to 99 years in prison, the judge can also sentence him to probation.

First, Delay his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, is very good, so there promises to be years of appeals, and there is a very real chance that he will find a judge or judges who owe him some sort of favor.

This is Texas, after all.

Call me a cynic, but I would be very surprised if he spends more than 18 months in a minimum security prison.

When one considers the degree to which he made pay to play a part of the Washington, DC political scene, he deserves a lot more than that.

He is a truly contemptible human being, and the most evil contestant on Dancing With the Stars ever, which is saying a lot.

Tom Delay, Felon…You know, I REALLY like the sound of that, and for today, at least, that is the truth.

Of course, he could go the way of Kenneth Lay, and die while the appeal is going on, which would be very convenient for people who are concerned that he might cooperate with authorities.

This is Texas, after all.

Light Posting for a While

Things are hectic, largely as a result of the non-life threatening family emergency mentioned earlier, and I am headed to my Mother-in-Law's for Thanksgiving.

23 November 2010

Some Things are Universal

This is in Japanese, but I don't need to know the exact words.

22 November 2010

About Damn Time

The FBI has raided at least 3 hedge funds on suspicion of insider trading:
The FBI has begun what is expected to be a far-reaching probe into insider trading with raids on hedge funds linked to some of Wall Street's most high-profile and wealthiest players.

The sweep – which began with armed agents raiding the Connecticut offices of Level Global Investors and Diamondback Capital Management, both multibillion dollar hedge funds set up by former managers at Steve Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors – is already affecting stocks: a collective $15bn was wiped off the valuations of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase.

According to reports published in the Wall Street Journal, investigators from several law enforcement and regulatory agencies are looking into multiple insider-trading rings that reaped millions in illegal profits. An FBI spokesman confirmed last night that the agency was executing "court-ordered search warrants", but declined to elaborate.

One focus is whether proprietary information is being passed from companies to hedge funds by network of independent analysts and consultants.
Well, this is refreshing: It appears that someone is beginning to look at "business as usual" on Wall Street, and they have noticed that it's corrupt.

I also have to note that the coverage on the Marketplace radio program was repulsive.

They had an apologist fow wall street on, and he wrung his hands about how fuzzy the lines were, and how no one was really hurt.

This is bovine scatology. Just because they are robbing millions of.investors a few bucks at a time does not diminish the crime.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

21 November 2010

James Carville is Wrong

You see, he said, "If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he'd have two."

This is wrong to say.

He'd just have 1.

Vaticanology

So, Pope Benedict XVI has now issued a tepid statement saying that gay male prostitutes might be able to use condoms, under certain special circumstances, because there is no possibility of procreation:
The Vatican today rushed out a "clarification" of the pope's remarks on the use of condoms, reported in a book to be published this week, insisting he had "not reformed or changed the [Roman Catholic] church's teaching".

But the statement made clear that Pope Benedict XVI was prepared to consider the use of condoms in certain, limited circumstances.
And now we are seeing the walk-back from this, so I am uncertain if this is a real initiative, or one of those cases a game of academic what-if-ing is taken as something more.

So, it's either significant, or it isn't.

Apparrently, I Am Not the Only One Who Thought This………

Click for full size
Blah, blah, blah!
I saw this at the Wholefoods Market™, and I saw this.

It's called the "Buddha's Hand Citron", but I immediately dubbed it the "Cthulhu Fruit."

I did not catch the name, but when I got home, I searched for "Cthulhu" and "Citron" on Google images, and this Flicker Stream was, not kidding here, the first image up, which shows that something are universal, at least for aficionados of the work of Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

There are a lot of people who call this "Cthulhu Fruit".

20 November 2010

Our Annoying World

My old Palm OS™ phone is wearing out, the keyboard is no longer working, so I got an upgraded phone, a Samsung Epic.

Now I have to teach myself a completely new OS, android, for my phone, and figure out how to sync it with Outlook.

It's an impressive phone though.

It happens every time I upgrade my phone.

About Damn Time!


The Commercial, but the music is better than average
When I was working at BAE Systems on the FCS-RMV, one of the systems that we needed to place on our vehicle was the so-called "Active Protection System" (APS), Raytheon's "Quick Kill, a hit-to-kill interceptor intended to neutralize RPGs, ATGWs, and long rod KE penetrators.

One of the problems with this system, at least as if fed down to us doing the design, was that it never worked properly, which was surprising, considering that the Israelis had a system, Trophy, which worked, and was far less expensive than the APS.

Of course, because of the need for generals to find lucrative consulting gigs in retirement, Trophy was fought tooth and nail by the army, with their refusing to test the system on Strykers in Iraq.

Well, what goes around comes around, and with Raytheon basically dead, the US army will finally try out the system on a Stryker:
Next month a Stryker combat vehicle will arrive in the US equipped for testing the Israeli’s Trophy active protection system. The Army has pursued active protection for years, most recently abandoning the Future Combat System’s active protection system developed by Raytheon. We understand at least one M-ATV will also get the radar– directed system. The M-ATV integration is more challenging, given the vehicle’s design.
Seriously, it's been something like 6 years that the Pentagon has refused to test the system, instead holding out for a system that was never near ready because our defense procurement system is that broken.

19 November 2010

This is Cool

You know, I'm generally not a fan of rap, and I generally find the genre of "weird Japanese videos" to be disturbing (see Pr0n, Tentacle), but this is very engaging, and completely work safe.

It is both universally engaging and truly Japanese at the same time.

H/t JR at the by invitation only Stellar Parthenon BBS.

A New Magazine for the Married Man

Heh!
You know, based on personal experience, I think that this might be a very lucrative market, but I need to ask Sharon* if it's prudent for me to offer a more thorough analysis of the potential dynamics of such a publication.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Gulf State Community Bank, Carrabelle, FL
  2. Allegiance Bank of North America, Bala Cynwyd, PA
  3. First Banking Center, Burlington, WI
Full FDIC list

So, we haven't hit 150 failures yet this year, but it's pretty clear that we will, even though it seems to be trending down a bit over the past few months.

So, here is the graph pr0n with trendline (FDIC only):



I would note that are now at the point where the utility of the least squares trendline is diminishing, but I'm keeping it here for historical purposes.

What My Daughter Listens To

My Chemical Romance's song Welcome to the Black Parade:

18 November 2010

I Am So Glad That I Do Not Live 15 Miles Further East

Because if I did, the biggest wanker in Congress would be my Congresscritter:
A conservative Maryland physician elected to Congress on an anti-Obamacare platform surprised fellow freshmen at a Monday orientation session by demanding to know why his government-subsidized health care plan takes a month to kick in.

Republican Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist who defeated freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, reacted incredulously when informed that federal law mandated that his government-subsidized health care policy would take effect on Feb. 1 – 28 days after his Jan. 3rd swearing-in.

“He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange. The benefits session, held behind closed doors, drew about 250 freshman members, staffers and family members to the Capitol Visitors Center auditorium late Monday morning,”.

“Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,” added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.
Andy Harris campaigned non-stop against government run healthcare, but that's only for people who aren't him, I guess.

Do Not Frack With Them………Ever!!

Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow take on John Sidney McCain III's flip flopping, Rachel generally, and Jon just on DADT.

Damn, this is brutal.

100% true, but brutal.



Trials Work

Ahmed Ghailani, accused of being complicit in the embassy bombings in Africa 19 1998, was acquitted of all but one of the almost 300 charges against him:
White House officials said Thursday that the acquittal of Ahmed Ghailani on all but one of more than 280 criminal charges in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa would not undermine their effort to try former Guantanamo detainees in civilian court, even as the mixed verdict reignited debate over that policy.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Ghailani - the first former detainee to be tried in federal court - will receive a lengthy prison sentence for his conviction on one count of conspiracy.
Of course, it lazy investigators had not tortured him at Guantanamo in the first place, and instead used their brains and skills, they probably would have gotten dozens of convictions, but even with the sloppy work, the get a conviction.

There is no need for torture of military kangaroo courts. We can use our judges and our laws, right here in the United States.

Of course, we won't because Barack Obama and Eric "Place" Holder are to wimpy to stand up for our values.

Signs of the Apocalypse, Steny Hoyer Showing Guts Edition

You got that right, Steny fracking Hoyer is finding a damn backbone:
Steny Hoyer, the number two in the House Dem leadership, told Democrats at a caucus meeting this morning that they would get to vote this year on just extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, a senior Dem aide tells me, signaling support for a confrontational move towards the GOP that liberals have been pushing.

Asked if Democrats would definitely get a chance to hold this vote, the senior aide responded: "Definitely."

Hoyer's declaration comes as Democrats have been debating the way forward on the Bush tax cuts, and another aide tells me that "more than half" of the Dem caucus supports this course of action.
I approve, but I wonder just who the hell had Steny's testicles, and why they decided to give it back to him.

Raising taxes on people making more than a ¼ of a million dollars a year is excellent policy, and excellent politics, so it surprises me that Democrats are even thinking about doing this.

Doubtless, they will find a way to screw this up, and I'm sure that Heath Shuler will be leading the way, but I'm still getting a heavy duty umbrella, just in case it starts to rain frogs.

Economics Update

It's jobless Thursday, and initial claims rose slightly last week, up by 2000 to 439K, beating expectations, and remaining below the 450-485K range where the number has meandered much of this year, so this is good news.

Additionally, the 4-week moving average dropped to a 2 year low of 443,000 and continuing claims fell fell by 43K to 4.3 million, though extended emergency claims rose by 12K to 4.93 million.

Good news though, the extended claims number drops to 0 on November 30, thanks to the ineptitude of Congressional Democrats.

We also have Philadelphia Bank of the Federal Reserve, where its general economic index exceeded forecasts by a factor of 4, jumping to 22.5.

On the down side, as always, is real estate, where foreclosures are ramping up again, as banks tweak their fraud and corruption fine tune their foreclosure programs and documentation.

Speaking of Mind Blowing Stupidity

The hed says it all, "The White House, Chamber Of Commerce Attempt Rapprochement."

What the f%$# are they thinking?

I know that Barack Obama thinks that he is so awesome that people can't help liking him, and that they like him so much that they will work together for the good of the country, but that is stupid and delusional:
On Wednesday, the intricacies and oddities of the relationship were on full display. For the second time in as many weeks, a member of the Obama cabinet met with Chamber officials. It was not to discuss the sharp elbows thrown during the campaign, when the White House, in no uncertain terms, accused the Chamber of subverting the democratic process by refusing to reveal its donors. Rather, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with the group's board of directors to "discuss the state of the economy, jobs, and administration priorities 'for supporting the competitiveness of American businesses'."
The Chamber of Commerce has always been a very conservative organization, but it is no longer that: It is now an explicitly partisan player whose goal is the defeat of Obama in 2012 by any means necessary.

They are not the opposition they are the enemy.

And little Timmy Geithner is playing footsie, no doubt with Barack's approval.

<Facepalm>

<Facepalm>

And the Award for Lame Losers Goes to ……
You know that recovery that we seem to be having, well expect it to stop, suddenly, in just a few weeks.

Why, because somehow or other the House Democrats managed to lose a vote on extending unemployment benefits extension, meaning that roughly 5 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits on November 30.

That's 5 million Americans who will be unable to make car or house payments of buy much of anything at all.

Figure about $1.5 billion pulled out of the economy a week, or a little bit over ½% of GDP that would just go away.

Not only did they not manage to pass the bill, but it was only a 3 month extension that they managed not to pass, so they failed on a lame half measure.

For some reason known only to God, they tried to pass it under a "suspension of the rules" requiring a ⅔ vote, which it failed, by 258 to 154.

OK, I do know the reason why the Democrats tried to pass this under a procedure requiring a 2/3 vote: If it passes by a simple majority, then people can make a "motion to recommit", which could kill the bill, and would not pass, or a "motion to recommit with instructions", where it is sent back to committee with instructions to make amendments, which doesn't kill the bill.

The problem is that the Democratic Caucus discipline is so lax that if the Republicans try to attach something that Democrats fear might be used in a campaign, like, for example, banning felons from getting UI benefits, then many of the Democrats, fearful for being cast as soft on crime in the next election, will vote for the measure and against the party, and the country, because they have no damn guts.

Of course, the reason that the Dems lost on November 2 was because they have no damn guts, so their solution is even more gutlessness.

Cthulhu on a cruller, it's lame.

17 November 2010

Economics Update

Well, if you think that the run up to the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing (printing money) might lead to inflation, you thought wrong, with inflation at 0.2% in October, and the core rate at 0% for the 3rd straight month, and the year over year change was an anemic 0.6%.

The problem is that there isn't enough inflation.

We also have real estate news, all bad, with housing starts falling, house prices in the US falling 2.8% in September (down 0.8% in the UK), mortgage applications falling, and the AIA's: Architecture Billings Index, an indicator of future commercial construction, falling in October.

Buh Bye Bean

Melissa Bean has conceded the election to her Republican opponent Joe Walsh, and honestly, it makes me happy.

I'd feel different if she were the margin for control of the house, but she isn't, and she is arguably the worst Democrat in Congress, because she sold her soul for campaign donations to the financial industry, and she was the most effective force on Congress for gutting financial regulations.

While she is (until January) was a member of both the Blue Dog and New Democrat Caucus, she was always about raking in the campaign dough from banks, pharma, etc. so that they can stay in office, which shades her more toward the New Dem side, as opposed to the Blue Dogs, who tend to be motivated more by their own misguided philosophy or a desire to appease constituents.

Give me an honest reactionary over a pseudo-moderate careerist any day.

In related news. Lisa Murkowski beat Joe Miller in her write-in bid.

In your face, Sarah Palin.

Speaking of Saroff's Rule

Click for full (honking big) size
If a financial transaction is complex enough to require that a news organization use a cartoon to explain it, its purpose is to deceive.
Williambanzai7 at zero hedge finds this description of how mortgage securitization works from an auditor by the name of Dan Edstrom.

The gentleman, "Performs securitization audits (Reverse Engineering and Failure Analysis) for a company called DTC-Systems."

Of course, Saroff's Rule does not strictly apply here.

This is not the product of a publication that is generating graphics for the edification of the reading public.

This is a visual aid to a Securitization Workshop for Attorneys, and it is what happened to his own mortgage.

This is not some theoretical mortgage that he looked at. This is his mortgage.

It took him a full year to track it all down, and his business is to do mortgage securitizations.

This happens because complexity is the enemy of transparency, and without transparency, the opportunities to profit by cheating and defrauding your counter-parties increases.

George Soros Implies Support for a Primary Challenge

Or maybe not, since his people are walking it back a little bit:
According to multiple sources with knowledge of his remarks, Soros told those in attendance that he is "used to fighting losing battles but doesn't like to lose without fighting."

"We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line," he said, according to several Democratic sources. "And if this president can't do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else."

……

While Soros's comment gave some attendees the impression that he'd cheer a primary challenge to the president, the point, sources say, was different. Rather, it is time to shuffle funds into a progressive infrastructure that will take on the tasks that the president can't or won't take on.

"People are determined to help build a progressive infrastructure and make sure it is there not just in the months ahead but one that will last in the long term," said Anna Burger, the retired treasury secretary of SEIU. "Instead of being pushed over by this election it has empowered people to stand up in a bigger way."

"There was frustration," said one Democratic operative who attended the meetings. The main concern was about messaging. I think they are frustrated that the president isn't being more direct. But I did not get the sense that anyone's commitment to the progressive movement was wavering... The general consensus is that support has to move beyond being about one person and more about a movement. I don't know if we've moved beyond there."
So, it could be that Soros is saying that he thinks that liberals should disassociate themselves from the Obama political operation, and go back to funding people 3rd party political operatives, because you can't trust the Obama team to fight for you, or to fight period. (true)

It's been well known that the Obama administration, and the associated political operation, has been tremendously hostile to 3rd party political operations, both out of a need to micromanage the message, and because of their ceaseless focus on process at the expense of results.

I think that the message, particularly as put forward by a billionaire, is a shot across Obama's bow.

I think that there was the intention to tell the Obama White House that if they kept trying to veal pen and defund independent groups, then there is a billionaire out there who is willing to dump a significant chunk of change on making his life difficult in 2012.

For myself, I support a robust primary challenge.

Obama's weakness, and his eagerness to please the malefactors in this situation (do nothing Republicans, dishonest bankers, etc.) while casting his behavior as liberalism could cripple the party, and the solutions that our country needs, for decades to come, much as Herbert Hoover crippled Republicans and conservatism for a generation.

The difference is that Barack Obama's PPUT (Post Partisan Unity Schtick) is a refutation of liberalism, while Hoover's activities were an endorsement of conservatism.

Let There Be No Kings……

In 1997, I was reading Usenet,* and my wife rushed in, and told me that Diana, Princess of Wales, was in a serious car wreck, and I paraphrased the words of George Washington to her, noting that the affairs of the British royal family is really not a proper for Americans to exhibit the level of fascination that it does with the subjects of the crown.

Well, I now learn that Prince William and his long time girl friend Kate Middleton will get married, and so I feel compelled to add both of them to my list of They Who Must Not Be Named.

Unlike many of the other denizens of the list, I do so without malice.

I have no knowledge of any specific wrongdoing from either of them, and I wish the happy couple the best.

I just never want to hear about them.

That being said, in homage to our founding fathers, who thumbed their nose at the British crown, I feel an obligation to engage in a snark before consigning them to the list, and the good folks at The Awl found what is likely the best snark on the internet:
In any event, welcome to the best Internet comment ever, from here: "Her parents can't be overly happy. She has been largely unemployed since she left school and is now marrying someone who has been on welfare most of his life. With the new government's promise to cut housing benefit and force those who repeatedly turn down work into manual labour I do worry for them."
Heh.

In any case I have no interests in toothless constitutional monarchs.

*Yes, remember Usenet? It was a wonderful way for people with common interests to get together, but eventually, the trolls, spammers, and the rest of the tragedy of the commons, drove most of the useful dialogue to other technologies.
Actually, his response to the suggestion that he be king was far more eloquent and evocative:
To Lewis Nicola

George Washington

Newburgh, May 22, 1782

Sir: With a mixture of great surprise and astonishment I have read with attention the Sentiments you have submitted to my perusal. Be assured Sir, no occurrence in the course of the War, has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the Army as you have expressed, and I must view with abhorrence, and reprehend with severety. For the present, the communication of them will rest in my own bosom, unless some further agitation of the matter, shall make a disclosure necessary.

I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable; at the same time in justice to my own feelings I must add, that no Man possesses a more sincere wish to see ample justice done to the Army than I do, and as far as my powers and influence, in a constitutional way extend, they shall be employed to the utmost of my abilities to effect it, should there be any occasion. Let me conjure you then, if you have any regard for your Country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your Mind, and never communicate, as from yourself, or any one else, a sentiment of the like Nature. With esteem I am.

Huh, I Never Posted The Definition of "Saroff's Rule"

While I post occasionally about what I call "Saroff's Rule," I realized that I have never posted the definition explicitly, at least not in a post of its own, so here goes:
If a financial transaction is complex enough to require that a news organization use a cartoon to explain it, its purpose is to deceive.
So, there you have it.

16 November 2010

No Post Tonite

Non-life threatening family emergency to be dealt with.

15 November 2010

US Comes Out Against Patenting Genes

This is a big deal, and a case where a very bad actor forced their hand:
Reversing a longstanding policy, the federal government said on Friday that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature. The new position could have a huge impact on medicine and on the biotechnology industry.

The new position was declared in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Department of Justice late Friday in a case involving two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

“We acknowledge that this conclusion is contrary to the longstanding practice of the Patent and Trademark Office, as well as the practice of the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies that have in the past sought and obtained patents for isolated genomic DNA,” the brief said.
Basically, a company, Myriad Genetics, got a patent on breast cancer genes, it licenses government funded research which found the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and has used this patent to prevent the development of better and cheaper tests, and their behavior was so egregious that the government felt compelled to act.

It's still up to the judge, but this is a good first step.

Genes have never been an invention, they have been a discovery, and discoveries are not supposed to be patentable.

Economic Quote of the Year*

Final thoughts from an economist on Armistice Day:
There are plenty people out there (I've just seen a documentary on Channel 4 presented by one) who don't believe in Keynesian economics, but who think that the Great Depression was ended by the Second World War. In other words, paying men to dig holes and fill them in again is a ridiculous policy, compared to the sensible and effective course of action of paying men to dig holes and die in them.
H/t Mithras.

Obama Can't Win if He Does Not Fight

There have been numerous reports that the White House will welsh on its promise to begin its withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011, and now it's pushing back, claiming that it will begin a withdrawal on schedule.

I'm inclined to believe that what the Obama administration means by "withdrawal" from Afghanistan is rather like what it meant by "withdrawal" from Iraq, so-called "non-combat" troops and a sh%$ load of contractors, but still, the push-back from the administration from Pentagon leaks is impressively muscular:
The White House vehemently denies that there is any change in policy. "The president has been crystal clear that we will begin drawing down troops in July of 2011. There is absolutely no change to that policy," said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman.
(emphasis mine)

The spokesman is on the record and named, which, for any administration in this situation, is a strong statement.

That being said, we have a pretty good idea where these anonymous statements are coming from, because General, and Bush butt boy, David Petraeus is threatening Afghan President Hamid Karzai on his statements about withdrawal timing:
In what may be one of the most significant breaches between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration, Gen. David Petraeus personally warned Afghan officials over the weekend the U.S.-Afghan partnership could be "untenable" if Karzai wants U.S. troops out of Afghanistan prematurely.

A senior coalition military official confirmed details of what Petraeus said, but asked not to be identified so he could speak more candidly.

………

After reading the article, Petraeus felt the views expressed by Karzai "makes it untenable for us to have a partnership," the official told CNN.
I'm not sure who the "senior official" quoted is, but you can be pretty sure it is someone who was authorized by Petraeus to make this statement.

You see, according to the Pentagon, and perhaps other elements of the US state security apparatus, we have to be at war forever.

There is a hell of a lot of insubordination from the military on this matter, and unfortunately, Barack Obama is absolutely the wrong sort of person to tell them to shut up and do their jobs, because it means that they would not like him.

Because Doing the Right Thing is Too Hard

So, once again, after taking a bit of heat from Republicans, Barack Obama and His Evil Minions are looking to cave on a core value.

Only this time, it is not a core value of the Democratic party, but rather a core value which our nation was founded, the idea that the King's power to simply imprison indefinitely on a whim is an anathema to a civilized society:
Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.

The administration has concluded that it cannot put Mohammed on trial in federal court because of the opposition of lawmakers in Congress and in New York. There is also little internal support for resurrecting a military prosecution at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The latter option would alienate liberal supporters.

The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.

The White House has made it clear that President Obama will ultimately make the decision, and a federal prosecution of Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators has not been ruled out, senior officials said. Still, they acknowledge that a trial is unlikely to happen before the next presidential election and, even then, would require a different political environment.
You see, even after they tried a child soldier using laws that were made up after the actions, and using evidence derived from torture, Republicans are still saying bad things about them, so now, they will now just stop trials altogether.

Due process is just too politically inconvenient.

There is a point where moral cowardice crosses a line, and becomes actively evil, and emulating the practices of the worst despots in history out of electoral consideration is way over that line.

Economics Update

The good news is that foreclosures fell in October, the bad news is that this was just temporary, as the banks paper over their fraudulent, and likely criminal, behavior.

An better indicator of the indicator of the health of the housing market right now is house prices, which fell 5% in the three months ending in October.

Outside of real estate though, the numbers look better, with retail sales rising significantly and credit card card defaults falling, though one month does not a trend make, particularly with sales numbers being driven by volatile auto, food, and fuel sales.

On the other side of the Pacific though, things are looking up as the South Korean central bank boosted its benchmark rate by 25 Basis Points (¼%), implying that they are now more worried about their economy overheating than about a double dip recession.

14 November 2010

Your Pentagon in Action

The US Navy's newest amphibious warship, the San Antonio Class, has been deemed, "not survivable in combat," in results from Pentagon testing:
Northrop Grumman Corp.’s $1.68 billion amphibious warship, designed to transport Marines close to shore, wouldn’t be effective in combat and couldn’t operate reliably after being hit by enemy fire, according to the Department of Defense’s top testing official.

……………

The San Antonio-class vessel’s critical systems, such as electrical distribution, ship-wide fiber optics and voice- communications networks, aren’t reliable, according to Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation. The ship’s armaments can’t effectively defend against the most modern anti-ship weapons, Gilmore said.

……………

“Survivability” for the San Antonio means the degree to which the vessel “is able to avoid or withstand” an attack “without sustaining an impairment” of its ability to accomplish a combat mission, he said.

His conclusion that the San Antonio is “not survivable” doesn’t mean, however, that the hull and structure can’t withstand a blow from an anti-ship missile due to inherent weaknesses, Gilmore said. In fact, the Northrop ship’s hull construction is “improved” in comparison with the four classes of ships it will replace, he said.
The inmates (Pentagon) are running the asylum.

Giving Great Hed

As in headline, not oral sex, is Barry Ritholtz, who, writing for Bloomberg, notes that one should, "Kiss Your Assets Goodbye When Certainty Reigns."

His basic thesis is that when you have unanimity of opinion, the markets are almost always disastrously wrong:
History teaches that whenever the opposite occurs -- when certainty overwhelms uncertainty -- the herd tends to be wrong. In rare instances, when there is a near-total lack of uncertainty in the market, the outcome is usually a spectacular disaster.
It's a good read, and probably a very good investment strategy.

What the Nobel Laureate Says

No, not Paul Krugman, George Akerlof:
As economists such as William Black and James Galbraith have repeatedly said, we cannot solve the economic crisis unless we throw the criminals who committed fraud in jail.

And Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof has demonstrated that failure to punish white collar criminals – and instead bailing them out- creates incentives for more economic crimes and further destruction of the economy in the future. See this, this and this.
OK, that's one Laureate, but here is a second, Joe Stiglitz:
An institutionalized system of skewed incentives allowed Wall Street bankers and other corporate executives to gamble with America's wealth and then get away largely scot-free after the house of cards came tumbling down, plunging the U.S. into the worst economic crisis in decades and destroying trillions of dollars of wealth worldwide.

That's the analysis of Joseph Stiglitz, an internationally renowned economist and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics. ………
Of course, this will not happen unless the politicians are forced to, because in general, the establishment believes that the big Wall Street Banks must be free to rape and pillage innovate, and in the specific case, Obama likes Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin, and any investigation of the fraud would doubtless have at least one, and possibly all three, of them in the dock facing criminal charges.

Adventures in Protest, Episode 420

In Wellington, New Zealand, a group of pro cannabis protesters pushed a cart of burning weed into a police station:
Police in the New Zealand capital of Wellington were weighing charges Friday against a group of pro-cannabis protesters who invaded the cop-shop with a cart full of burning marijuana, according to a report from the scene.
I wonder who had the fig newton concession at what was described as, "one of the happiest protests the political precinct had seen in some time."

13 November 2010

It's the Fracking Juxtaposition of a Contrail and Forced Perspective


Once Again, Jon Stewart Does News Better than the News Networks
You know, the earth is round, and if a jet is passing directly over you as it comes over the horizon, its contrail looks vertical.

Of course, we know what this was. It was a slow speed chase involving a white Ford Bronco.

As Jon Stewart notes, quoting the helicopter pilot who filmed it, this "rocket plume" continued for about 10 f%$#ing minutes, which would put the missile (assuming a 1 G acceleration) would put the missile about 1800 km (100 mi) down range.

<Facepalm>

12 November 2010

Yahoo's Decline

Click for full (BIG!)size

A Testament to Management Selfishness
I was discussing this graphic on the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

It details the history of Yahoo's acquisition activity, and it is grim.

Pretty much everything that they ever bought never made money when they bought it, and never made money after they bought it, and they sold it for a loss.

In any case, someone was wondering why companies keep making purchases like this, and I put in my 2¢:
Carly bought Compaq, and then promptly demanded a raise from the board, since HP was now a larger firm.

Buying this sh%$ provides a justification for upper management to demand a raise, and provides a bump in visibility which raises their profile when they apply for the next position, where they demand even more money.

It's the virtue of selfishness, baby.*
Basically, this is the problem with corporate governance in the United States, there isn't any.

Basically, we don't have managers, we have pillagers running companies in the United States, and it is destroying us.

Not only has our politics become klepto-capitalist, but so has our entire culture, even when the government is not involved.

H/t Barry Ritholtz.

*Why yes, this is a reference to the execrable Ayn Rand's even more execreable book by the same name, why do you ask?

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Tifton Banking Company, Tifton, GA
  2. Darby Bank & Trust Co., Vidalia, GA
  3. Copper Star Bank, Scottsdale, AZ
Just to note, yes, that is the Vidalia where the sweet onions come from.

Full FDIC list



So, here is the graph pr0n with trendline (FDIC only):



I'm going to try to come up with a slightly more informative bank graph this week.

What Took Them So Long?

Jack Johnson, the outgoing County Executive for Prince George's County, has been arrested for corruption:
Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson and his wife were arrested at their home Friday and charged in federal court with trying to hide or destroy the proceeds from a bribe from a local developer, according to court papers and federal law enforcement authorities.

Johnson and his wife, Leslie E. Johnson, were charged with evidence tampering and destruction, alteration and falsification of records. After brief hearings late Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Connolly ordered Jack Johnson to be released and placed under electronic monitoring. The judge released Leslie Johnson on her own recognizance. Both Johnsons were ordered to surrender their passports.

The charges stem from a frantic phone call on Friday in which Leslie Johnson told her husband that "two women were at the door" and ultimately ended when federal agents found $76,000 in Leslie Johnson's underwear, according to an affidavit in support of the criminal charges.
I think that we are finally seeing the end of the PG County machine.

It began with Donna Edwards' defeat of Al Wynn for Congress in the 2008 primary, and you can see things piling up in this handy Washington Post timeline.

The FBI has been investigating him for about 4 years, and the fact that he owns about 6 homes, with mortgage payments larger than his salary, might have been an indicator that something odd was going on.

Here's hoping that maybe some reformers get swept in at the next election.

Wanktastic!


Yeah, this gives me hairballs too
Everyone's favorite NFL blowout, Heath Shuler, has decided to challenge Nancy Pelosi as minority leader in the 112th Congress.

This guy's entire life has been defined by his trying to do things that he was manifestly unfit to do, whether it's being an NFL Quarterback (top ten first round draft10 busts) a representative of the values of Democratic Party, or of pretty much anything he has done since he has gotten out of college.

Here's hoping that Nancy Pelosi hangs him by his entrails on the Statue of Freedom on top of the Capitol Dome.*

I'm considering taking up a collection to have Gus Frerotte move to his district and run against him. After all, someone needs to replace this loser, and Frerotte has already proved that he has what it takes to do that.

*In a purely metaphorical, "He needs to be slapped down in a parliamentary kind of way."
The reason that I do not wish him to be threatened with actual physical harm, is that when he is threatened with the possibility of physical harm, he throws a pass to the opposing team, which in this case, is the Republican Party.
I think. All things considered, I'm not sure which team he is really playing for in Congress.

11 November 2010

Catch Phrases IX

Over Insertnumberhere!

Round up the usual suspects
Generic generic fraction 2325 the html code is <sup>23</sup>&frasl;<sub>25</sub>


Control fraud occurs when a trusted person in a high responsible position in a company, corporation or state uses their powers to subvert the company and to engage in extensive fraud for personal gain.

Just Go Read Matt Taibbi

His latest, on the corrupt Florida "rocket docket" special foreclosure courts is a thing of beauty.

Go read.

Rotten to the Core


Happy Veterans Day
Not only is the US military is pressuring our own soldiers to get them to sign documents admitting to a pre-existing "Personality Disorder" when they are injured in combat, so that they are not eligible for disability, now we have testimony that they tortured at least one soldier for the requisite signature.

This is a rather profoundly unsettling 9 minutes and 37 seconds.

10 November 2010

Oop Ack! This is an Insult to Cat Food!


Yeah, this gives me hairballs too
So, now that the election is over, the two co-chairmen of Barack Obama's catfood* deficit reduction commission, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, have released the plan that they came up with together.

On their own.

Without consulting with anyone else on the commission.

Which needs to get affirmative votes from 14 of the 18 members to actually issue a report.

It makes it pretty clear that these folks are idiots.

Remember now, that this commission was given one charge, to reduce the deficit in the long term, so let's see what they came up with:
  • Cutting social security benefits, even though they themselves have said that this will not count against the deficit, because it has its own trust fund, and because they would be laughed out of town if they did.
    • They cut this by means testing social security, changing the way that the benefits base is figured from average wage to CPI, which will cut benefits by over 50% over the next to years, and by raising the retirement age, which, as Paul Krugman notes, "Oh, and they’re talking about raising the retirement age, because people live longer — except that the people who really depend on Social Security, those in the bottom half of the distribution, aren’t living much longer. So you’re going to tell janitors to work until they’re 70 because lawyers are living longer than ever."
  • Limiting government revenues to 21% of GDP.
  • Cutting taxes, with the top tax rate dropping to 23%.(!).
  • Torte reform.
Note that these are clearly not part of the committee's charge, which was to reduce the deficit, but they decided to go wingnut to start off.

Additionally, in areas where they are acting within the scope of their committee they want to:
  • Cut military spending.
  • Cut many tax deductions, including the home mortgage interest deduction (not gonna happen).
  • Charge co-pays for veterans to get services from the VA.
  • Magically making healthcard costs increase by no more than 1% more than GDP.
No wonder that (still) Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls it, "simply unacceptable."

Felix Salmon is scathing about the plan, and shows just how silly it is:

Meanwhile, some of the small savings have to be seen to be believed. The deficit commission, charged with coming up with a bold plan to bring the nation’s finances into order, really does propose:

  • Increasing the amount of time spent on instant messenger, to reduce travel costs;
  • “Reduce copying use by putting the default option on copiers to double-sided”;
  • Merging the Commerce Department with the Small Business Administration;
  • Charging a fee to Smithsonian visitors.
  • Etc.
Really, they are suggesting that we have the Smithsonian charge admission, and changing copiers to copy both sides of a sheet of paper by default.

This was foreseeable. Both Bowles and Simpson have been advocating privatizing Social Security for years, and Bowles almost had a deal cut with Gingrich in the 1990s to do so.

Not surprising, BTW, since Bowles is an investment bankers, and those folks have been salivating for decades about the possibility of getting fees for (mis)managing all that money.

This is not a deficit reduction plan. This is a slash fanfic wet-dream from the denizens of some warped right wing think tank.

I would note that the way is playing in the press will be disastrous for the Democrats, because it's all, "Obama Commission proposes cutting Social Security" (or the mortgage deduction, or veterans' benefits, etc.), and that was clear even before wankers Bowles and Simpson were appointed.

It was intended to be yet another excuse for Obama to preen about how he was post-partisan and reasonable he is, and once again, what emerged from this bit of narcissism is cataclysmic blow back, both in terms of the policy and the politics.

<Facepalm>

*In the interest of health, I would suggest that people eat dog food, and not cat food. Cats because they are one of the few true carnivores, do not need the complex carbohydrates and fats that people, and dogs do. As such, dog food is better for you than cat food because it provides carbs and essential fatty acids. A dog can go blind if it is fed on cat food, but a cat lives just fine on dog food. The phenomenon is known as rabbit starvation.

09 November 2010

Ford Field In Detroit Evacuated!

Practice at the Detroit Lions stadium was delayed after a player reported finding an unknown white powdery substance on the ground. After a complete analysis, forensic experts determined that the white substance, unfamiliar to most of the players, was in fact, the goal line. Practice will resume tomorrow after Police and Homeland Security decided the team was unlikely to encounter the substance again.*
*No clue as to who came up with this in the first place, but it's funny.

FDIC Moves to Boost Assessments on Large Banks

This is a good thing. If banks are too big to fail, then their insurance costs should reflect this:
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. proposed shifting the burden for protecting depositors against bank failures toward larger lenders whose reliance on riskier funding sources may pose a greater threat to the financial system.

The FDIC board today approved two proposals for overhauling assessments for its deposit insurance fund, including one that would base the fees on banks’ liabilities rather than their domestic deposits. The fee proposal, a response to the Dodd- Frank financial-regulation law, would increase assessments on banks with more than $10 billion in assets.

“This proposal achieves the goals of the Dodd-Frank Act to change the assessment base to better reflect risks to the deposit insurance fund,” said FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair. The measure is subject to a 45-day comment period.
If we make too big to fail too expensive to exist, I can live with that.

One Less Bigot With Power

Andrew Shirvell has been fired as assistant Michigan Attorney General for stalking University of Michigan student Chris Armstrong.

Armstrong was the first openly gay president of the Michigan Student Assembly, and this sent the already right-wing Shirvell into a delusional hissy fit.

As a private citizen, it would be creepy, but as a supporter and confidant of Michigan's right wing Attorney General, it took on some rather disturbing overtones.

Background here.

A Very Nice Take-Down of Treasury View Economic Blather

Click for full size

The Numbers Do Not lie


But David Henderson Does
Economist Mike Kimel does a masterful job of taking down another right wing economist, one David Henderson, who asserts that the government spending actually suppressed economic activity during WW II, and when reduced, we experienced an unprecedented boom in GDP.

Only we didn't.

Henderson also claims that the relaxation of economic controls under Truman lead to a much larger increase in private investment.

Only it didn't.

The giveaway that Henderson is writing to reflect his opinions, rather than the facts is that he published his article at the Geroge Mason University Mercatus Center, which is another one of those right wing "think" tanks.

In any case, both of Kimels articles are worth a good read.

It is a very well done, and very well deserved, "Fisking" of a charlatan.

H/t Angry Bear.

Economics Update

Generally, this has not been a good day for economic news.

We have seen a a spike in inventories, they rose 1.5% in September, following a 1.2% increase in August, which indicates that recent increases in manufacturing activity, which were largely driven by businesses rebuilding inventories, may now be running to the wall of weak consumer demand.

The fact that job openings fell again in September, indicating that there is simply not a an opportunity for people to find their way back into the job market, might be a part of this, as would the continued increase in personal bankruptcies.

On the brighter side, the National Federation of Independent Business’s optimism index rose to a 5 month high in October.

Not Enough Bullets

The high frequency trading firms are ramping up their lobbying efforts to keep their front-running of markets legal:
The high-frequency trading industry is stepping out of the shadows in Washington.

Closely held companies with undisclosed profits and obscure names like Getco LLC, Hard Eight Futures LLC and Quantlab Financial LLC, are beginning to act more like Wall Street banks, cutting checks to politicians, forming trade groups and hiring lobbyists and ex-regulators. They’re looking to fend off tighter rules and appease lawmakers who say the firms disadvantage small investors and contribute to wild swings in stock prices.

While the companies, which use high-powered computers to execute thousands of trades in milliseconds, aren’t approaching the big banks in Washington spending, they have more than quadrupled their political giving over the last four years, a Bloomberg News analysis shows. The top recipients include Eric Cantor, set to become House majority leader, and several incoming senators who won in last week’s Republican rout.
Among other things, they are worried that the SEC will limit their ability to manipulate stocks by doing things like submitting large number of orders and then canceling them.

But Eric "Place" Holder Remains True to Form

The Obama Department of Justice has elected not to prosecute CIA officials who obstructed justice by erasing torture tapes:
Central Intelligence Agency officials will not face criminal charges for the destruction of dozens of videotapes depicting the brutal interrogation of terrorism suspects, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

After a closely watched investigation of nearly three years, the decision by a special federal prosecutor is the latest example of Justice Department officials’ declining to seek criminal penalties for some of the controversial episodes in the C.I.A.’s now defunct detention and interrogation program. The destruction of the tapes, in particular, was seen as so striking that the Bush administration itself launched the special investigation after the action was publicly disclosed.

Government officials said Tuesday that the special prosecutor, John H. Durham, could still decide to charge current and former C.I.A. officers and lawyers with making false statements to a grand jury over the course of the investigation, which began in January 2008.
Yes, they could, "Charge current and former C.I.A. officers and lawyers with making false statements," but they won't because they want to cover this up because Obama and Holder fear a future prosecution by a future Republican administration want to "look forward, not backward."

Respect for the rule of law, my ass.

Finally, Someone In the Obama Administration With Guts

Unfortunately, it's just Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
The Obama administration is urging Wisconsin's incoming Republican governor, Scott Walker, to reconsider his opposition to high-speed rail in his state and threatened to rescind $810 million in federal stimulus grants for the project if the venture is killed.

In a letter (pdf) to Walker yesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood discussed what he called a "difference of opinion about the value of a Midwest high-speed rail network" between the Obama administration and the incoming governor, emphasizing economic benefits that high-speed rail could bring to the region.

Walker, who is currently the county executive of Milwaukee County, campaigned heavily against a proposed high-speed line to link Milwaukee and Madison that would eventually be part of a Midwest network. Decrying the project as a waste of tax dollars, he has called for the cash to be redistributed to highway and bridge repairs in his state.

But LaHood said the stimulus grants must be spent on rail projects.
Additionally, LaHood is demanding $271 million back from New Jersey Transit for Governor Christie's cancellation of the rail tunnel under the Hudson, and there are indications that the Feds will be demanding money back from Ohio when the new Republican governor there cancels their rail program.

Even more amusing is that Illinois is already applying for the money that the 'Phant governors don't want.

Good for Secretary LaHood, but I expect Obama to overrule him and give the money to Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Jersey anyway, because he wants these loony tunes to like him.

It is interesting that the only one in Obama's administration to do the right thing because it is the right thing is a Republican.

08 November 2010

What the Dickens??!?!?

And yes, I mean the author, as in in the Scrooge quote, "Are There No Prisons? Are There No Workhouses?"

The new Conservative government in the UK is going Charles Dickens on the unemployed:
Ministers have defended their plans to force the long-term unemployed to do manual work or lose benefits.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander told the BBC the idea was not to "punish or humiliate" but to get people back into the habit of working.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said the changes could drive people "into a downward spiral of uncertainty, even despair".

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is to unveil the plans this week.

Under the plan, claimants thought to need "experience of the habits and routines of working life" could be put on 30-hour-a-week placements.

Anyone refusing to take part or failing to turn up on time could have their £65 Jobseekers' Allowance stopped for at least three months.
Of course, the Tories like this because they hate poor people, and their coalition partners, the Lib-Dems love this, because it hearkens back to a time when they had political relevance, those halcyon days before World War I.

With unemployment at the highest levels since the great depression, and unemployment in the UK among the highest in western Europe.

As Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman notes, "But she said the government needed to understand that to get people back into work, there had to be jobs for them to go to - and at the moment there were five people chasing each vacancy."

I think that Labour doesn't get it. The Conservatives plan to destroy enough so that people will be ready to dismantle the National Health Service for something more disastrously like the US system.

The barbarians are not at the gates, the barbarians are in the gate.